Anji Bai Cha Green Tea
Anji Bai Cha is the green tea of a specific tea cultivar native to Anji county in China’s Zhejiang province. Actually, “Bai Cha” literally means “white tea” (安吉白茶 = “Anji White Tea”. In fact, though, it’s a proper green tea in regard to all relevant picking and processing features. In turn, the variety derives its name from the shiny white color of its buds. By the end of April, however, the buds will turn green, marking the end of this tea’s proper picking season. The same starts around the Chinese Qingming festival only, reducing the annual picking season to barely 4 weeks.
For 900 years, the Anji Bai Cha tea cultivar existed as a legend only, mentioned by the Chinese emperor and passionate tea scholar Song Hui Zong (1101 to 1125 A.D.) in his book “Da Guan Cha Lun” (“The Treatise of Tea”). Only in 1982, a single specimen of a tea bush was discovered in Anji county, Zhejiang province that researchers believe might be the tea plant that had already been described as rare by Song Hui Zong. Due to the white color of its spring buds, the variety was named Anji Bai Cha. Today, this name and corresponding geographic origin are subject to protection. The protection is to ensure that only tea of the proper variety and origin may go by that name. This makes especially top qualities of Anji Bai Cha a rarity of high reputation among tea lovers worldwide. And indeed, Chine selected this very tea to represent the nation at the 2010 World Culture Fair in Shanghai.
Qingming Anji Bai Cha Green Tea – Picking an Processing
Our Qingming Anji Bai Cha Green tea/Anji White Tea comes from a semi-wild (biodiversity) high mountain tea garden with several small ponds, many different trees and mountains around it. The garden adheres to a close-to nature cultivation approach that renders the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers redundant. For the best qualities, the picking season limits to the first half of April only. Accordingly, picking starts in the beginning of April at an altitude around 700 meters. From there, the pickers progress uphill. This way, around the time of the annual Qingming festival, they’ll reach an altitudes of around 1000 meters. Our current batch comes from a picking right after Qingming, at 1170 meters. As for picking standard, the very best one, 1 +1, is quite the rule for top grade early pickings.
During withering and stir-fixing, the fresh picked white buds and leaves take on a pale yellowish green color. In the next processing step, rolling, they take on their characteristic form of tight pine-shaped needles. Even after drying, the leaves still clearly show their natural leaf pattern.
Taste and Aroma
The aroma of dry Anji Bai Cha tea leaves displays a fresh and clean, high floral fragrance. This reflects as a charming orchid aroma in the infusion, perfectly matching the tea’s super fresh, delicate and soothing sweet taste. A hint of an asparagus “veggie” note and a clear and refreshing high citrus flavor round up the overall flavor pattern.
Studies have shown that Anji Bai Cha Green tea is particularly low in chlorophyll and polyphenols. That is, this explains the white color of the young buds. With 7-11%, however, the leaves are partcularly high in amino acid, at least 2,5 % of which are theanine. This is a multifold of the theanine content in the most green teas. Now, theanine is the amino acid mainly responsible for the soothing effects and full-bodied taste of fresh green tea. Plus, it is generally considered as one of the most important citeria for the assemssment of a tea’s quality.
To get the best of your Anji Bai Cha Green Tea, first pour 200ml water of 90°C temperature over 4g of tea leaves. This temperature is quite higher than otherwise common for green tea. However, Anja Bai Cha virtually contains no bitters at all. Therefore, the result of a 90°C infusion is simply full flavor without any astringency or bitterness. After pouring the hot water, let infuse for 2-3 minutes. Though a good part of the particular fresh taste of this tea exhausts in such first infusion, a second one (3-5 minutes) is definitely still worth it.